Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jim Webb Writes to Condi

Here is a letter Jim Webb sent to Condoleeza Rice on January 29, 2007 requesting a direct answer to a question he previously asked her at a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on January 11, 2007.

January 29, 2007
The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice:

During your appearance before a Senate ForeignRelations Committee hearing on January 11, 2007, Iasked you a question pertaining to theadministration’s policy regarding possible militaryaction against Iran. I asked, “Is it the position ofthis administration that it possesses the authority totake unilateral action against Iran, in the absence ofa direct threat, without congressional approval?”

At that time you were loath to discuss questions ofpresidential authority, but you committed to provide awritten answer. Since I have not yet received a reply,the purpose of this letter is to reiterate my interestin your response.

This is, basically, a “yes” or “no” question regardingan urgent matter affecting our nation’s foreignpolicy. Remarks made by members of this administrationstrongly suggest that the administration wronglybelieves that the 2002 joint resolution authorizinguse of force in Iraq can be applied in otherinstances, such as in the case of Iran. I, as well asthe American people, would benefit by fullyunderstanding the administration’s unequivocalresponse.

I would appreciate your expeditious reply and lookforward to discussing this issue with you in the nearfuture.

James Webb
United States Senator

President Bush on Iran

Below are two excerpts from Juan Williams interview with President Bush on NPR on January 29, 2007. Click here for the full transcript and audio. General Gard notes that in this interview President Bush does only said that he does not have the intent of “going into Iran.” However, he did not say we would not attack Iran, which would be different than “going into” or “invading.” Another colleague notes that President Bush used the same language prior to the Iraq War. It is unclear however whether the President purposefully chose his wording.

MR. WILLIAMS: …Iran's ambassador to Iraq says Iran is planning to greatly expand its economic and military ties with Iran – with Iraq. You said you have proof of Iran's role in attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. I know you want to take care of this diplomatically – I've heard you say that – but if Iran escalates its military action in Iraq, how will the U.S. respond?

PRESIDENT BUSH: If Iran escalates its military action in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly. We – it makes common sense for the commander-in-chief to say to our troops and the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government that we will help you defend yourself from people that want to sow discord and harm. And so we will do what it takes to protect our troops.

One of the things that is very important in discussing Iran is not to mix issues. Our relationship with Iran is based upon a lot of different issues. One is what is happening in Iraq. Another is their ambitions to have a nuclear weapon. And we're dealing with this issue diplomatically, and I think this can be solved diplomatically. And the message that we are working to send to the Iranian regime and the Iranian people is that you will become increasingly isolated if you continue to pursue a nuclear weapon.

The message to the Iranian people is that your government is going to cause you deprivation. In other words, you've got a chance to really flourish again as a great tradition. However, if your government continues to insist upon a nuclear weapon, there will be lost opportunity for the Iranian people. They won't be able to realize their full potential.

The Iranian people have got to know that this government and the United States bears no hostility to them. We're just deeply concerned about a government that is insisting upon having a nuclear weapon, and at the same time, rewriting history – the history of the past, and regards, for example, the Holocaust. It troubles a lot of people in this world, and I'll continue to work with, you know, friends and allies to send a clear message.

MR. WILLIAMS: By the way, just quickly, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader says that if you have an incursion into Iran, he expects that you would come to the Senate for approval.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I have no intent upon incur—going into Iran. I mean, this is the kind of thing that happens in Washington. People ascribe, you know, motives to me beyond a simple statement – of course we'll protect our troops. I don't know how anybody can then say, well, protecting the troops means that we're going to invade Iran. If that's what he's talking about, there's – I mean, we will protect our interests in Iraq. That's what the American people expect us to do. That's definitely what our troops want to do, and that's what the families of our troops want us to do. And if we find the Iranians are moving weapons that will end up harming American troops, we'll deal with it.

MR. WILLIAMS: One last thing, Mr. President. When you look at the quality of intelligence that you're getting about the nuclear program in Iran right now, do you think it's better than the quality of intelligence you were getting about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

PRESIDENT BUSH: No question that there is a certain skepticism about intelligence. We all thought that that – that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and "we all" being not only the administration, but members from both political parties in the Congress. The previous administration felt that the intelligence indicated there was weapons of mass destruction. The international community – in other words, I just want you to know that there was a universal belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction including critics of Iraq, like the French, who voted for 1441 in the Security Council.

And therefore when it turned out not to be true, there is a certain skepticism about intel. And however, the skepticism about intel, while it needs to be tempered by, you know, the – by an analysis of statements or other fragments of intelligence – what I am trying to say that I take the Iranian nuclear threat very seriously even though the intel on Iraq was not what it was thought to be, and we have to.

Now – so how do you solve the problem on intel? Well, you get more human intelligence. You constantly reevaluate the system itself and make sure that these really fine souls that work for the different intelligence agencies are given the tools they need. And so – look, I'm like a lot of Americans that say, well, if it wasn't right in Iraq, how do you know it's right in Iraq. And so we are constantly evaluating, and answering this legitimate question by always working to get as good intelligence as we can.

MR. WILLIAMS: And Negroponte's departure, did it concern you – do you feel like the CIA, all of these intelligence agencies are doing a better job now?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I think they understand the lessons of Iraq. And you know, we put the Silverman Robb Commission together, and wanted to make – look, the president needs the best intelligence. This is a war against a group of killers that still want to come and kill us, that is going to require accurate intelligence to give us the data necessary to act to protect Americans before the attack. And therefore we are all pulling for good intelligence.

And Negroponte is much needed at the State Department. He is one of these public servants who brings a lot of skills, and a lot of really – and a lot of good judgment. And I asked him to go to the State Department to help Condi, and found a very suitable replacement, a guy named Mike McConnell. And the change of personnel really is not a reflection upon whether or not the intel is getting better or worse; the change of personnel is putting our best players in the best positions as we head into the final two years of the administration.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Enough Fear Campaign

Here is a creative citizen action: The Enough Fear campaign. Enough Fear is an international effort to prevent war between the US and Iran and the campaign is collecting photos of Americans and Iranians on its website to demonstrate solidarity in this cause.

The Enough Fear campaign was created by The Action Mill, the same people who founded Turn Your Back on Bush in the wake of the 2004 US Presidential election. We create non-violent direct actions, events, websites, and other tools for progressive organizations, grassroots groups and campaigns.


We are beginning to see a resoliferation©™, that is proliferation of resolutions. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. It's about time Congress focuses attention on this issue and tries to take back its constitutional right to declare war and not simply write a blank check to the President.

I previously posted information on the resolution introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) and the resolution introduced by Rep. Peter Defazio (D-OR) (which included Mr. Murtha as an original co-sponsor). On 23 January, Rep. Ron Paul introduced H.Con.Res. 43, with 9 original co-sponsors. H. Con. Res. 43, a non-binding resolution, expresses the sense of Congress that the President should implement Recommendation 9 of the Iraq Study Group Report. The resolution concludes:

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the President of the United States should implement Recommendation 9 of the Iraq Study Group Report, which states: `Under the aegis of the New Diplomatic Offensive and the [Iraq International] Support Group, the United States should engage directly with Iran and Syria in order to try to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq and other regional issues. In engaging with Syria and Iran, the United States should consider incentives, as well as disincentives, in seeking constructive results.'.

On 24 January, Sen. Byrd (D-WV), introduced S.Res. 39, a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the need for approval by the Congress before any offensive military action by the United States against another nation. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said last week, "I'd like to be clear. The president does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization."

In an interview with GQ Magazine, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) explained why resoliferation©™ such as this is important (ok, he didn't use the word resoliferation©™, but humor me), when he revealed that the Bush administration tried to get Congress to approve military action anywhere in the Middle East -- not just in Iraq -- in the fall of 2002. According to Senator Hagel, the Bush administration presented Congress with a resolution that would have authorized the use of force anywhere in the region. "They expected Congress to let them start a war anywhere in the Middle East?" the interviewer asked. Hagel responded, "Yes. Yes. Wide open."

Sen. Biden (D-DE and '08 Presidential candidate) has also said he will introduce a resolution similar to the DeFazio resolution and I'm pretty sure there are some others that will be coming down the pipeline.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration tabled a resolution of its own at the United Nations (also known as the "land of resoliferation©™") on 22 January, calling upon all member states to reject any denial of the Holocaust, warning that ignoring the historical fact of these terrible events increases the risk they will be repeated. While the resolution doesn't name any country specifically, the underlying motives behind the it are to isolate Iran and rachet up pressure on the country on the international stage. The resolution is expected to be adopted overwhelmingly by the General Assembly.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Another Iran Resolution

Thanks to Shervin Boloorian for the heads up on this new resolution introduced on January 23, 2007.

Title: Expressing the sense of Congress that the President should implement Recommendation 9 of the Iraq Study Group Report.

The text should be on Thomas tomorrow. I’ll post it with analysis when it is.

It was introduced by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and co-sponsored by:
Rep Neil Abercrombie
Rep Roscoe G. Bartlett
Rep John J., Jr. Duncan
Rep Wayne T. Gilchrest
Rep Walter B., Jr. Jones
Rep Dennis J. Kucinich
Rep Martin T. Meehan
Rep Richard E. Neal
Rep Gene Taylor

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sec. Def. Gates Flip Flops

This is from an AP article on January 18, 2007 written by Robert Burns. In the article, Gates flip flops on his previous position in the 2004 Council on Foreign Relations report calling for engagement with Iran. In this article, he also tries to disassociate himself from the Iraq Study Group. But, I think most of us knew this was coming. Gates was involved with the Iran Contra. We know he flip flops for political access.

"Asked about the prospects for military conflict with Iran, whose nuclear program is seen by the Bush administration as a growing threat to U.S. interests, Gates said, 'There are many courses of action available that do not involve an open conflict with Iran — there's no need for that.'

"Gates said that although he had publicly advocated negotiating with Iran as recently as 2004, he now advises against that.

"'Right at this moment, there's really nothing the Iranians want from us,' he said. 'And so, in any negotiation right now we would be the supplicant,' asking Iran to stop doing such things as enriching uranium for its nuclear program.

"'We need some leverage, it seems to me, before we engage with the Iranians,' Gates added. 'And I think at some point engagement probably makes sense.'

"Until the Iranians are persuaded that, despite being bogged down in Iraq, 'the United States is in fact a formidable adversary, there's not much advantage for us in engaging with them,' he said.

New CRS Report on Iranian President

Here is a link to the new Congressional Research Service report for Congress entitled: "Iran: Profile and Statements of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

MP's Rebuke Ahmadinejad + US Wrestlers Recieve Warm Greeting

While the US seems to be “Taunting Iran” and itching for war, the people of Iran are sending a different message.

The UK paper, The Guardian, is reporting the following story, which is quite possibly the most important political development in Iran since the 2005 presidential election:

“Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has suffered a potentially fatal blow to his authority after the country's supreme leader gave an apparent green light for MPs to attack his economic policies.

In an unprecedented rebuke, 150 parliamentarians signed a letter blaming Mr. Ahmadinejad for raging inflation and high unemployment and criticizing his government's failure to deliver the budget on time. They also condemned him for embarking on a tour of Latin America - from which he returns tomorrow - at a time of mounting crisis.

The supreme leader, who was hitherto loyal to the president, is said to blame Mr. Ahmadinejad for last month's UN resolution imposing sanctions over Iran's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, January 16, United States wrestlers were welcomed to Iran on Tuesday with bouquets of pink and white flowers and greeted by Iranian women in traditional dress.

“The 14 wrestlers will compete in the Persian Gulf Cup on Thursday and Friday. The tournament, also known as the Takhti Cup, is the top wrestling event in Iran, where the sport has been a national obsession for centuries…

In a small — but, for Iranians, significant — good-will gesture, the wrestlers from the United States were exempted from having their fingerprints taken as they entered the country. Iran imposed the fingerprint requirement after the United States imposed a similar rule on visiting Iranians. In 2003, Iran boycotted the world freestyle wrestling championships in New York because of the policy, which it sees as humiliating.”

Anti-Iran War Legislation Percolating

Amidst heightened tensions that a US war on Iran may be imminent, on January 18, 2007, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) will hold a press conference to announce H.J.Res.14, a resolution he co-authored with Rep. Jack Murtha to demand that the president seek congressional authorization before initiating the use of force against Iran.

The resolution states:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of
America in Congress assembled,


(a) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.—No provision of law enacted before the date of the enactment of this joint resolution shall be construed to authorize the use of military force by the United States against Iran.

(b) REQUIREMENTS.—Absent a national emergency created by attack by Iran, or a demonstrably imminent attack by Iran, upon the United States, its territories or possessions or its armed forces, the President shall consult with Congress, and receive specific authorization pursuant to law from Congress, prior to initiating any use of military force against Iran.

But, as an HJRes, the Jones-Murtha bill would require the signature of the President, which not very likely to ever happen. While such a resolution helps to bring attention to the issue, the ability for it to gain traction is actually pretty limited.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced H.Con.Res. 33 on January 16 along with 18 other co-sponsors, also including Mr. Murtha. This “Sense of Congress” resolution cites Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, which grants Congress the power to declare war. It concludes with:

“Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring),

That Congress--
(1) strongly believes initiating military action against Iran without congressional approval does not fall within the President's `Commander-in-Chief' powers under the Constitution;

(2) rejects any suggestion that Public Law 107-40, the authorization of force resolution approved in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, explicitly or implicitly, extends to authorizing military action against Iran, including over its nuclear program;

(3) rejects any suggestion that Public Law 107-243, the authorization of force resolution approved by Congress to go to war with Iraq, explicitly or implicitly, extends to authorizing military action against Iran, including over its nuclear program; and

(4) strongly and unequivocally believes that seeking congressional authority prior to taking military action against Iran is not discretionary, but is a legal and constitutional requirement.”

Nothing has yet been introduced on the Senate side, though rumors abound and we will likely see something in the near future.

What is needed even more, however, is a joint resolution with a positive approach calling on the US to constructively engage Iran, as has been recommended by numerous bi-partisan commissions and study groups, including the Iraq Study Group co-chaired by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton; a 2004 working group established under the Council on Foreign Relations and co-chaired by Robert Gates and Zbigniew Brzezinski; and a 2001 Atlantic Council of the United States Working Group, co-chaired by Lee H. Hamilton, James Schlesinger and Brent Scowcroft.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Senator Jim Webb on Iran

On January 11, 2007, during a hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) said during a question and answer session with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice:

"And our options are to ignore -- to do things informally, as you've been discussing, or to more actively engage in -- when I'm looking at this, one of the things that sticks in my mind is the situation that we had with China in 1971. This was a rogue nation that had nuclear weapons, it had an American war on its border. The parallels are not exact, but we went forward, without giving up any of our ideals or our national objectives, and we did a very aggressive engagement process that, over a period of time, has arguably brought China into the international community. And I just hope you will pass on to the president: A, my best regards; and, B, that if he were to move in that direction, he certainly would have the strong support of me and perhaps other people."


"Well, I think that it's important, as the Baker commission was saying, a lot of people have been saying, and I've been saying, that when you have a situation with a nation that constitutes this kind of threat, it's very important to confront as well as to engage.And I personally think it would be a bold act for George W. Bush to get on an airplane and go to Tehran in the same manner that President Nixon did, take a gamble, and not give up one thing that we believe in, in terms of its moving toward weapons of mass destruction, our belief that Israel needs to be recognized and interests need to be protected, but to maybe start changing the formula here."

Thank you, Virginia.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Faces That Did Not Launch a Thousand Warships

Photo taken at Busboys and Poets on January 8, 2007. The first person who can email me the names of everyone in the second picture above will get a prize - a copy of Shirin Ebadi's "Iran Awakening: Memoirs of Revolution and Hope." The shirts were created by Arash Norouzi.